The San Antonio Spurs needed a miracle Gary Neal three-pointer to survive regulation against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night, and even in overtime, Memphis took Tony Parker and the Spurs to the absolute brink. But the Spurs survived. Now? The pressure's back on the Grizzlies.
It wasn't so much poor execution that doomed Memphis down the stretch Wednesday; the Spurs just hit a series of incredible shots, and refused to disappear. Criticizing the Grizzlies on Wednesday sort of misses the point. The didn't lose it, the Spurs won it.
Besides, a Grizzlies win on Wednesday would have been on icing on the cake; on the road, with the Spurs facing elimination, it would have been a surprise. Now that both teams are headed back to Memphis, the Grizzlies find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being expected to win.
And much like the Spurs won Game 5, it's up to Memphis to go out and take Game 6 at home. The Spurs may be old, injured, and on the brink of extinction, but they won't go down easy. More than anything else, that's what Wednesday night proved, when everyone wondered whether the Spurs could defend their home turf.
Now the questions are about Memphis. Will they crack under the pressure? Can Zach Randolph and Tony Allen keep this up? Will Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo show up in Game 6? Can Lionel Hollins continue to match wits with one of the best coaches the NBA's ever seen?
They'll be at home when they answer all these questions, but it won't be easy. There's nothing like playoff pressure, and for the first time all series, that pressure's on the Memphis Grizzlies.